Staying Stable in the Age of Trump

This is a strongly opinionated take on the current state of the nation, and my response to it as someone living with Naked Nerves. These are strictly my own opinions and I take full responsibility for my words. Whether you agree or disagree with me I hope that at least these words make you think. Please leave me a note to express your own feelings. Dialogue is so necessary. We all have a say in how our country works and we need to make our voices heard. This is my way of doing that. You’ve been warned.

I can’t say I’ve always loved my country. I came of age during the tumultuous 60’s and 70’s, amid the Civil Rights Struggle, the Vietnam War, the fight for Gay Liberation, Watergate and many other things that made me question the goodness of this country. These things made me angry, but they also made me terrribly sad.

As time has gone by I’ve grown up and mellowed out a bit and I have a different perspective on just how wonderful this country can be. Lots of hard work by so many good people has made it that way and continues to do so. I have an enduring optimism that things will work out for the best. I get depressed when it doesn’t, but I struggle thru it and try to come to terms with the bad parts. I love our democracy with my whole heart and I always will.

But today we’re in a different world: the age of “Post Truth” and “Alternative Facts”. It’s never felt so bleak to me. Chaos reigns supreme and lies are the norm. “Truth isn’t truth”. I recall when Donald Trump was running for president I wrote to friends that it was imperative not to vote for him because he’d gain the power to destroy not just our nation, but Western Civilization as we know it. As it turns out, I was right. He’s doing it right before our eyes and no-one is stopping him – least of all the gutless Republicans in Congress. Such cowardly wimps.

The standing of the U.S. in the world has never been worse. We’ve alienated our best allies and broken our word to the world in crucial ways like the Paris Climate Agreement, and so much more. The administration doesn’t even believe in climate change. Over 95% of the world’s best scientists say it’s real but the president and his toadies in congress and on Fox news won’t listen to them and cling to their fantasies that human caused change isn’t happening and we don’t need to do anything about it. I’m embarrassed by their willful ignorance and I fear their power to cause great harm by ignoring reality.

As I write this we’re in the 23rd day of a ridiculous government shutdown brought on by our president’s temper tantrums over his absurd promise of a racist and ineffective border wall. All the data show that it won’t work to curb illegal immigration, which we do need to address. What we need is better technology, more border guards and more immigration courts to process claims of amnesty. But that’s not what’s being proposed. Just a wall that won’t stop the problems. Most of the illegal immigrants actually come in thru Canada, not Mexico at all. Do we need a wall there too?

Our nation is being held hostage over this wall. Hundreds of thousands of our dedicated Federal workers are out of work and out of money. They’re either stuck working for free, or not allowed to work. It hurts far more than just them however. It’s felt in our entire economy and it’s debasing our way of life. It makes people angry and feel afraid for their futures. It’s mean and it’s cruel – the hallmarks of this administration. I’ve never seen a President act so callously towards his people. Are we really “his” people, or are we just pawns in his games of power? We have a “Kakistocracy” – a term meaning “rule by the worst elements of society”. This is our reality now.

So what does all of this have to do with Naked Nerves? I’d say it’s obvious, but I’ll go into it a bit. This kind of insecurity in society is felt most keenly by those of us who are sensitive, and are already on the edge of sanity and survival. Whether it’s mental or physical, those of us who are seriously struggling with our health have difficulties. Having the basic institutions of society destroyed like they are erodes our sense of stability terribly. It makes us more vulnerable to the tragedies we see happening all around us to people of color and immigrants, as well as religious, ethnic and sexual minorities, especially if we’re members of these groups. Racism and intolerance are rampant, and it hurts us all.

As a lover of nature and a gardener I particularly feel the insults to our natural world that this administration is perpetrating. The destruction of our National Monuments and the opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge infuriate me with their injustice. These are lands that belong to all the people of the United States, not to some private mining companies or oil drilling rigs that steal our natural resources, leave a mess, and refuse to pay for any wrong-doing. They just want their millions of ill-gotten booty. It makes me cry, and it makes me very depressed. And it makes me angry as hell…

I tend to cycle often between depression/despair (mostly) and hypomania/anger (lately – too much). But these days it’s almost constant. Even tho I try to limit my news intake, don’t watch TV news and mostly get my news thru NPR and certain objective, non-partisan newspapers and websites, I still get way too much for my comfort. It upsets and destabilizes me and makes me fear for my own survival, even tho I’m not directly affected by the shutdown. But I am queer, mentally ill and living on Federal Disability insurance, and I don’t trust this government to take care of me in these circumstances. In a word – I’m Terrified – for myself, but mostly for our nation.

So what do I do to stay stable? It’s very hard, but I try to stay as calm as I can and not let myself get too outraged or depressed because it just hurts me and makes me less able to address the problems. This is just how our “leaders” want it. Keep the public ignorant and powerless and you can do what you want to them. Declaring the news media the “enemy of the people” is totalitarian talk. It’s the first step towards authoritarian rule and it freaks me out totally. White nationalism is on the rise and bigots rule the airwaves. It’s scary as hell. But when I remember there are so many people working so hard for positive change it gives me hope that we can find a way out of this mess.

Being isolated is the worst part of it. I don’t have as many friends as I used to, and feeling alone with it all just exacerbates the issues for me. But I have Louie and some family and a few good friends to help me stay sane. I rely on their support very much and I think that people who have good social support networks will do the best as things get worse, as they surely will. Being connected with other like minded people can help us keep our centers. Just writing this blog helps me feel that way. I hope my writing does the same for others. We need one another to be reasonable and to work together for a better world.

There is so much fear in our society these days. Trump says creating fear is his modus operandi. This can’t help but affect us all. But when you have a mental illness it’s much worse. We magnify things out of proportion in our mood states, and we can’t always think clearly enough to see the way out of them. I can’t say I meditate as much as I should, or stay as mindful of my circumstances as I could, but I do try. I think that these things are good ways to help us maintain clear perspectives and survive this turmoil we live in. But probably the best way to feel more empowered and like you’re making a difference is to get involved in the struggle to make America safe and welcoming again. I know how hard this is when you’re depressed, but helping others is a proven way to help yourself.

If you’re struggling like I am to live a good life in the age of Trump I hope you have good people in your lives and positive things to do to help you stay stable. Just emoting can help us feel better. Getting it out of our minds by journaling helps. Allowing the negative energy to dissipate helps. Taking our meds helps. Keeping calm and remembering the good things that are happening helps. Appreciating the beauty of the natural world and all the wonders of existence helps. And working for change helps. These are some of the many ways to survive this mess we’re in, but they take conscious effort. We need to do them if we are to save our country, and our collective and individual sanity. Let’s hope we have the courage and the will to persevere.

Trying to stay strong…

Steve

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Cycling While Stable

I wrote a blog post last November on my 67th birthday about how I thought I was doing much better since I’ve been on a mood stabilzer that actually works. It’s been about a year now that I’ve felt this relative stability, but lately I’ve been looking back at my behavior over the last few months and I realize that I’ve actually been cycling thru hypomania and depression quite a bit more than I realized at the time. Impulsivity is the biggest and most problematic issue for me. But obsessive thinking is a close second. The two go together for me too often and I make a fool of myself in situations where I should know better.

Over spending is another one that’s gotten me lately. Impulsive again, and obsessive. These are all symptoms of Bipolar illness and apparently I’ve been experiencing them frequently. I didn’t really see what I was doing at the time but at some point I realized it and I stopped it, or tried to. But I still act too impulsively and without proper forethought. It drives me crazy and embarrasses the hell out of me. I say things or write things in emails that are out of line with my sense of self, and I portray myself in ways I’d rather not. I can’t seem to stop blurting things out that make me look and feel stupid, both in print and in interactions in real life. I attribute this mostly to the hypomania but I see there’s a clear element of depression in there too.

I guess I’m in a mild mixed state, where I experience both the highs and the lows that are the hallmarks of manic depression. I go there when I see the effects of my hypomania and it upsets me, so I get depressed. Then I feel better and act out stupidly again. Then I get depressed. Then…. You get it… It’s a vicious cycle. I have a diagnosis of Dysthymia as well as Bipolar type 1 and PTSD. Dysthymia is a constant state of low grade depression, and I can see that it’s an appropriate diagnosis for me because I feel a bit “down” almost all of the time. I’m not really sick but I’m sad and feeling the loss of the vitality that the hypomania brings.

I’m a bit disconcerted by all this. It makes me realize once again that I’ll always cycle thru these emotions, maybe more easily at times than others, but they’ll always be there, up and down, again and again, even when I’m “stable”. It sometimes feels like a bleak future for me, but I refuse to accept that it’s going to define my life as I get older. At times it feels like I don’t have enough time left to get it right, but then I see that I really have all the time I need and I can do it if I just keep trying. I’m still pretty young after all, and people do amazing things in their 60’s and 70’s and well beyond that.

I have a lifetime of experience that tells me that, tho I’ll still cycle much of the time, I’ll also have relatively calm periods when I just feel OK. During these times I can assess my actions and behaviors and make decisions to act less impulsively and obsessively. I can learn to think things thru more thoroughly before I act or speak. Seeing these aspects of my personality lately has given me an impetus to renew my commitment to taking better care of myself, more consciously. I already think of myself as a conscious person, but obviously I don’t always live up to these expectations of myself.

I’m continually learning to cut myself some slack for my failures. It’s a big part of healing for me. I still hate myself for the slightest misstep, and beat myself up mercilessly. Suicidal ideation is not that far away at times, tho thankfully it’s not the problem it used to be. It’s a hard thing to experience as frequently as I have in the past. It’s too often been the default setting for my negative emotions when I screw up and it’s very hard to uproot it from my consciousness. Now I’ll still feel bad about myself, but usually not so much that I want to die.

In fact I want to live, and live well. So I’ll keep trying to moderate my moods and be more aware of them as they cycle back and forth thru my consciousness. It can be a blurry line between accepting responsibility for my actions and recognizing that the manic depression has “pushed’ me in certain directions that are not in my best interests. I think I’m getting better at seeing these differences all the time. After all I just caught myself for the ways I’ve been blowing it recently. This gives me hope that I can actually keep doing it. All I have to do is stay aware of my thinking, and treat myself with gentle loving care, the way I try to treat other people. It’ll be a big challenge, but I think I can do it.

Cycling consciously,

Steve